[SPOILERS for Peaky Blinders season 4 ahead.]
Tom Hardy is an actor gifted with the ability to turn even a small role into a very big part – just look at how memorable his turns in Inception and Dunkirk both are. He is leading man material, evidenced by his roles in films like Mad Max: Fury Road, FX's Taboo, and the upcoming Venom. But as is so often the case with Hardy, there is an unconventional nature to these parts that is often just as interesting, if not more so, than the characters he's playing. Fury Road, for instance, was really Charlize Theron's movie, while Taboo is and will likely continue to be a sometimes-bewildering passion project from Hardy and his father Chips that seemed as much to do with the chance for the actor to wear a top hat and appear in a loincloth as anything else. And in a surprising move -- though probably not too surprising when you think about it -- the actor has signed on to play Eddie Brock in Sony's upcoming Spider-man-less Venom movie opposite the Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed.
In other words: Hardy has put the predictability of the typical leading man in check with the surprising choices he's made in his career. He zigs where others might normally zag, and the inability to pin his future choices down makes the actor all the more appealing as a result. One of his recent smaller roles made big is that of Alfie Solomons in Steven Knight's violent period drama Peaky Blinders. The role was inevitable from the start, as Knight, a prolific screenwriter and filmmaker, has teamed with Hardy on a number of occasions. It is a collaboration one might liken to Martin Scorsese's partnership Robert De Niro or, more recently, Leonardo DiCaprio, as Knight is the head writer on Taboo, and also worked with the actor on Locke, a feature film set almost entirely in a car being driven by Hardy.
While Locke was a showcase for the actor's talents that didn't also rely on his physicality, the role of Solomons, however, does, but, naturally, not in the way you might expect. Like nearly everyone in Peaky Blinders, Alfie makes his living on the wrong side of the law and Hardy strikes an imposing figure as the Jewish gang leader, which makes his unpredictable and sometimes-violent outbursts all the more disquieting.
The character has been around since season 2 and is often the source of some very memorable scenes. He's always had a contentious relationship with Cillian Murphy's Thomas Shelby, but in season 4, Alfie Solomons ascends to a place near the top of the Shelby family's adversaries, only to meet his maker in a deadly standoff in the season finale. As usual, Hardy captures the season with what amounts to just a few minutes of screen time, and in doing so earns himself the honor of Peaky Blinders season 4 MVP. Here's why:
He Gets All the Good Lines
Alfie gets all the best dialogue, most of which comes out in a flurry of half-mumbled phrases the cadence of which remains distinctly Hardy-ian. For example, there was this choice bit of dialogue in season 2, that he delivered to Tommy: "I once carried out my own personal form of stigmata on an Italian. I pushed his face up against a trench and shoved a six-inch nail up his f***ing nose and I hammered it home with a duckboard. It was f***ing biblical, mate."
And in season 4, it's no surprise that the gangster delivers a number of memorable monologues in what turns out to be his swan song. Some of the exchanges are to Murphy, who makes the best verbal sparring partner for the kingpin. Knight, Hardy, and Murphy demonstrate as much in 'Dangerous', when Alfie says to Thomas, "The truth is, Tommy, you’re going to be dead soon, and then your starlings, they will peck out your blue eyes, your jackdaws will steal your gold and your medals, and pretty soon it will be as though you never even f***ing happened."
But Knight isn't interested in only pitting Alfie against Tommy; the character also delivers a one-sided verbal barrage toward Aidan Gillen's Aberama Gold (a strong contender for the MVP spot himself) and one to Adrien Brody's Big Bad Mafioso, Luca Changretta. Hardy takes full charge of both scenes, delivering furious bursts of dialogue filled with the sort of profanity that could make Quentin Tarantino blush and that need to be seen performed rather than simply read. In both scenes, Alfie insults dangerous men to their face and yet, by virtue of their need for him and the inherent threat posed by the character (thanks in large part to the daunting figure Hardy cuts) Mr. Solomons walks away no worse for the wear.